THE IMPORTANCE OF STRONG CORE IN CALISTHENICS & STREET WORKOUT
Hey Guys!! Today we are gonna talk about another important “element” of the world of Calisthenics and Street Workout that it can be considered fundamental to make proper progressions and achieve always new goals throughout your bodyweight journey:
Whenever we hear talking about the core, we immediately think about having lean abs that can help us to support all thoise movements such as Front Lever, Back Lever and also other skills like the Planche as well as the Handstand that are requiring a lot of stability.
As you can see, basically in every single exercise, the core represents the element without which we could not be able even to hold a position for few seconds.
Now, as we wanna ensure that our core gets stronger and stronger starting from a beginner level going all the way to an intermediate-advanced level, there are many different ways of working it out.
It is now very important to emphasize one fact:
Whichever bodyweight exercise works already on the core by developing it through performing different movements, this means that it is not strictly necessary to work on a specific core workout routine as something apart from your daily workout routine.
The point is that, if we consider the world of Calisthenics, the core is considered to be a part of a bigger plan that involves all the other muscles at once.
In few words, we cannot talk of a strict core routine in Calisthenics as the work we wanna focus on is included in our daily routine at the end of the workout.
For instance, we could add a couple of core exercises at the end of each routine we have managed to do during the week in order to work on it with different exercises, in different days rather than working out 2 hours only on the core and then feel sore and counterproductive.
The principle is that the core is not a muscle like the bicep or the triceps that can grow by training it with additional weight or a repetitive movement so that it grows its volume; the core represents the whole abdominal band.
As we can see from this picture indeed the core represents the whole group of muscles composed by the External abdominal ones, the rectus abdominis and the internal abdominal oblique.
Whenever we perform an exercise, the core allows us to have the necessary stability to hold a position horizontal or vertical axis and we can have a clear example whenever we perform exercises like the Front Lever in all its progressions, the Back Lever in the same way, the Planche and the Handstand as well.
As mentioned above, there are no exercises where the core is not involved and this is the reason why, especially in Calisthenics, you shouldn’t be used to create a separate workout specifically for the core.
If, for instance, we have a Calisthenics training routine like this one:
4×10 Pull Ups
4×10 Push Ups
4×10” Front lever Tuck hold
4×4 Pike Push Ups
4×10” Wall Handstand
4x 20” Arch Body hold
4×5 Pistol Squat
4×10 Split Squat Jump
4×10 Bar Knee Raises
4×5 Ab-Wheel (start on knees)
We can see how, starting from the first exercise, the core is immediately called on to work in order to provide stability during the whole duration of the pulling movement (concentric-eccentric); the same can be told for the Push Ups where the core helps to maintain our back in line (spinal column in neutral position) while lowering our body to the ground.
Once again, the Tuck Front lever hold where the core helps to sustain the whole body while hanging even if, in this phase, legs are closer to our chest making the movement easier; in the Wall Handstand hold by assuming the hollow body position we ensure that the core stabilizes the spinal column while we are holding the position upside down against the wall.
Also in the two legs exercises, the core is involved as for the Pistol squats keeping the core in tension helps to prevent injuries in our lower back in the eccentric phase and in the Split Squat Jump too as it helps to keep the spinal column in line after jumping, switching leg and landing with the opposite foot.
In the end of the routine of course have been included as well two specific core exercises as they can be inserted in such way in a basic Calisthenics beginner-intermediate training routine.
The abs exercises we can perform on the bar, are among the most effective ever and the proof of that derives from the fact that we will feel a difference when approaching the front lever progressions and all the other main Calisthenics Skills.
The knee raises are representing the most typical core exercise that helps to develop the strength necessary to progress to the more advanced leg raises where instead the force we have developed after a while, will allow us to reach out our head with our feet by raising them in full extension over the bar (hanging full leg raises).
After this step you will be able then, to start to work on the Pull-over, where your core got strong enough to let your body go over the bar in reverse and take you over it in a Dip bar starting position.
As we previously anticipated, there are different ways to approach the core and if we refer to the Street Workout training style, well then we can consider it as a routine on its own.
A little bracket is worth to be opened here, to emphasize fact that the main difference between Calisthenics and Street Workout, indeed, lies in the fact that in Calisthenics we cannot reason in muscular groups in order to set up our training routines; for instance we cannot think of training back and triceps in a routine and on the next one focusing instead on chest and biceps
This method is instead commonly used in Street Workout, where you usually work by dividing in muscular groups the routines, that is not wrong, but still is a different way of working out compared to the Calisthenics method.
If we wanna go in depth of the core exercises, here we can enlist the most common ones both in Calisthenics routines as well as Street Workout routines:
- Crunches: the most common exercise in absolute, performed on the floor
- Hollow Body hold: a basic gymnastics core exercise used to build strength and fundamental element to be included in whichever Calisthenics Skill you wanna work on and develop
- Mountain Climbers: one of the best dynamic core exercises often used in HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or also in the Tabata trainings, it can be considered a great cardio exercise in a fat burn routine
4. Knee Raises: very common exercise among the ones performed on the bar and that can be performed at different levels of difficulty also on parallettes or higher, towards your chest or on parallel bars: by holding yourself on the parallels with your forearms and elbows firmly placed on them and by lifting up towards your chest both knees
5. Leg raises: another common core exercise that can be performed either on the floor from a pronated position (back on the floor) or, by increasing the difficulty, while hanging on the bar and involving also the lats in order to ensure the necessary stability while raising the legs straight at a waist-high position (90 degrees)
6. Elbow Plank Hollow Body hold: great exercise to improve your core strength as well as the one in your shoulders in order to approach then the planche training; remember always to keep your scapula protracted and your hips in retro-version (hips towards your chest, squeeze your glutes in the inner side)
7. Side Plank and its variations (left-right side): very good core exercises that helps to strengthen the obliques in order to approach the training specific for the human flag:
8. Planche Lean hold: this exercise can be considered the next step, after mastering the elbow plank hollow body hold for at least 1 minute:
9. Windshield Whipers (on both sides)
10. Oblique Knee Raises: they can be performed in 2 ways
11. Leg Raises full ROM (Range Of Movement): in this exercise is very important to not forget the form.
I personally always see a lot of people with very limited mobility, doing this kind of exercise with legs bent because they are not able to extend them completely as they should. Please make sure that, first of all you work and dedicate the necessary time to increase your mobility in your hamstrings before going to do such exercise.
Your goal must be the one that allows you to fully extend always your legs at each rep. Please, also make sure that, if you have the chance to fully hang on the bar with legs straight at the beginning of the movement it would be better than starting from the position I start in the picture because of a lack of space.
Other two variants of this very effective exercise, that helps also to build the strength in order to perform the pullovers as well as the front lever progressions; are the Oblique Leg Raises and the Leg Raises so called “Around the world”.
The first one is performed by raising your legs, always straight, but instead of going all the way above your head, make sure to go all the way on both sides of your head, firstly on one side, then lower your legs in full extensions and then raise them again to the opposite side.
The second one is instead is a bit more intense as you will raise your legs in a 360° movement; this means that you will raise your legs from one side in a rotating movement all the way to the opposite side and ending with legs straight.
- Pullovers: for a lack of space I wasn’t able to get a picture of this exercise, but just to give you an idea of what it looks like, consider to start with a hanging position on the bar. Raise your legs in a decisive movement so that you will go all the way above your head and beyond the bar in order to find then yourself in the starting position of the bar dips (arms straight over the bar supporting your body). These steps are equal to one rep, then you will have to lower yourself again below the bar coming back to the starting hanging position.
- V-Ups: this is one of the most common core exercises that allows you to achieve, together with other propaedeutics, the V-Sit as an evolution of the L-Sit.
Remember that, your goal must be to not touch with your hand the floor when you raise up your legs straight.
Different case instead is the one where we are working on the V-Sit stance, so in this case you can help yourself to control the balance by placing the tip of your fingers on the floor.
- Scissors: you can place your hands in the lower back in order to keep the position slightly over the floor. Make sure, when you start the movement, to always keep the legs straight while you’re switching them and to keep a solid core.
- Ab Wheel on knees or on feet: this tool is a must for the bodyweight training that I strongly recommend you to get because it increases a lot the strength in your core
- Dragon Flags advanced tuck – one leg – straddle – full form: the most important core exercise to include in your daily routines especially if you have planned to achieve the front lever.
This exercise is very effective only if performed in perfect form, which means that compared to what I usually see when I watch random YouTube videos, a lot of people tend to bend their back when they lower the legs and so the lower back assumes an arch position very bad and counterproductive for the spinal column.
I insist on this point as we MUST keep always our back STRAIGHT when we lower the whole body and so the legs especially in the full form.
Ok guys, now with all the information you got, you can set up your own routines keeping in mind what we have emphasized in this article and remember, a high quality training is the one that includes a proper amount of sets and reps in order to give your body/muscles/tendons the chance to get used to all the movements avoiding injuries because of the overtrain.
Don’t be in a rush because what you are doing out there, you are doin’ it to find out the best side of yourself, to make yourself a better person than you already are and most of all to help yourself face the daily problems with a different approach because there is nothing better than a good, healthy workout to let out all the stress and the bad feelings/thoughts that periodically we all can have.